Immigrant rights group files complaint against Santa Clarita councilman over 'proud racist' remark
Los Angeles-based immigrant rights advocates announced Tuesday that they have filed formal complaints against a Santa Clarita councilman they say deserves to be censured for violating the city’s code of ethics and conduct by declaring himself “a proud racist.”
The Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition has sent letters to state Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown, Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley and the U.S. Department of Justice, alleging that Councilman Bob Kellar “breached the public’s trust and has acted in an unethical, racist, xenophobic and biased manner by making public comments scapegoating so-called illegal immigrants.”
The group also alleges that Kellar violated at least eight provisions of Santa Clarita’s ethics and conduct policy, which requires that municipal leaders be “independent, impartial and accountable to the people they serve.”
The complaint further targets the remaining members of the Santa Clarita City Council, who the immigrant rights’ advocates charge violated their “fiduciary duties and responsibilities...by not speaking out and condemning” Kellar’s statements.
The legal complaint stems from a Jan. 16 anti-illegal-immigration rally in Santa Clarita, where Kellar, a veteran councilman and two-time mayor, spoke. In his comments, Kellar referred to a statement by former President Theodore Roosevelt that the United States has a place for only one flag and only one language.
Kellar, a former LAPD officer, said those remarks caused some people to accuse him of being racist, to which he replied that if believing in America causes people to think he's a racist, "then I'm a proud racist."
The councilman has said that he stands by his remarks, which he said were personal and have been misconstrued. He insisted that he abhors racism, and he has received zealous support from many Santa Clarita residents.
But the immigrant rights advocates said that Kellar was introduced as a councilman during the anti-illegal immigration rally, and they quoted from a transcript of Kellar’s remarks in which he spoke about conducting business at City Hall the day before the gathering.
They also accuse Kellar of being a member of the Santa Clarita Valley Independent Minutemen group -- a staunch anti-illegal immigration organization whose members sometimes patrol the U.S.-Mexico border in an attempt to prevent illicit crossings. Kellar has denied being a member of the group, which helped organize the rally at which he spoke.
“He should have explained that he was speaking as an individual and not as a public figure,” said John Fernandez, a member of the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition.
“When a duly elected leader promotes divisive speech, that is essentially hate speech,” said Robert Gittelson, another coalition member.
Supporters of Kellar jeered the immigrant rights advocates, chanted the councilman’s name and at one point physically tried to prevent the advocates from briefing the press in front of Santa Clarita City Hall before a scheduled council meeting Tuesday.
“A man voiced his personal opinion; that is not a violation,” shouted Randy Thompson, a Santa Clarita resident since 1967. “Bob Kellar stated that he is against illegals. He supports American laws.”
“Get of my town right now,” one woman screamed from her car. “Who do you think you are? Do you read the papers? Everyone here is behind Bob Kellar.”
Chris Hall, who has lived in Santa Clarita for four years, said he was saddened by the rowdy spectacle between the rival groups. “This is painful for me to watch,” said Hall, who has worked in the city for 15 years. “It’s getting totally out of control. It affects our community.”
Speaking at the council meeting, Kellar said he had been bombarded with calls and e-mails, and had had several conversations with residents who expressed concerns about the affect illegal immigrants were having on the city. He suggested the council include the issue of illegal immigration on a future agenda. Other council members suggested organizing a study session on the matter.
-- Ann M. Simmons in Santa Clarita